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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Ombraz Armless Sunglasses

Sunglasses are an essential accessory for adventures, but they can also be fragile, poor fitting, easy to lose, and fog up the moment you do anything strenuous. Ombraz (pronounced “Ohm-bruhs,” originating from the Italian word ombra for shade) promises to end these drawbacks with their armless sunglasses, designed to be the ultimate outdoor adventure shades. 

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a quote originally taken from Plato, who proclaimed, “Our need will be the real creator.” This statement was particularly pertinent when a stranger sat on Ombraz Co-founder Jensen Brehm’s sunglasses during a camel safari in India. As a temporary solution, Brehm tied a piece of twine to both hinges and wrapped it around the back of his head. Amazingly, “they didn’t slip down his nose, they were secure yet incredibly comfortable, and when he didn’t need them on, he could drop them around his neck or throw them in his pocket without fear of breaking them.” It was a lightbulb moment that led to Brehm teaming up with his friend Nikolai Paloni, and together, they created Ombraz Armless Sunglasses. 

At their HQ in Bellevue, Washington, Ombraz developed the product, established supply chains, and finally launched their crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com. It was a huge success and raised $165,000 from over 1,400 backers in just 30 days. Brehm and Paloni didn’t stop there and promised to plant 20 trees for every pair of sunglasses sold. This means that with the help of their partners (Eden Reforestation Projects, 1% for the Planet, and Climate Neutral), the company says they sequester “1,383 times more carbon than is emitted to produce and deliver each pair–making a pair of Ombraz the most carbon-negative product currently available on the market.” Now that’s a statistic I can get behind. 

ombre, ombre sunglasses

I was very excited to field test a pair of Ombraz, as I’ve been disappointed by several outdoor-focused sunglasses and heard good things from fellow adventurers about the brand. The plan was simple: to wear them every day. Bikepacking, hiking, sea kayaking, driving, walking the dog, working in the yard; the Ombraz Dolomites were always on my person.

ombre, ombre sunglasses

The sunglasses arrived in plastic-free packaging that’s printed with soy-based ink and thus can be discarded into the bio-waste bin (remember to remove the shipping label). The company’s focus on sustainability and ethical practises is at the heart of everything they do, and the Dolomite is no different. The shades feature a hand-carved, plant-based acetate frame and a 100 percent recycled V2 Japanese nylon cord. Once removed from their neoprene case (with a built-in microfiber cloth), the first thing that strikes you is how lightweight they feel. The Dolomite weighs approximately 0.9 ounces (25 grams), is available in two sizes (narrow/regular or large), and is easily the lightest pair of shades I’ve ever owned.

ombre, ombre sunglasses

In the past, I’ve found that sunglass arms begin to hurt the top of my ears after multi-day use; this is not the case with Ombraz. What they describe as an “abrasion-resistant, anti-microbial, and buttery soft” cord makes sense to me on so many levels. First and foremost, it’s far more comfortable than traditional sunglass arms; in fact, I forget it’s even there. Secondly, the cord allows you to remove the shades without actually taking them off because they hang around your neck. Thirdly, due to zero moving parts, they’re more packable and almost impossible to break (perfect for rough treatment in the mountains). Finally, once secured, they remain in situ even during strenuous activity (this included trail running and mountain biking on fast-paced singletrack). I appreciate this design won’t be for everyone (I wonder if the cord would snag on long hair), but all-in-all, this solution is fantastic and delivers a new level of all-day comfort.

The Dolomite frame (available in Slate or Charcoal) does a great job of being timelessly stylish (combine with a white blazer, and you wouldn’t look out of place in Miami Vice), while not compromising on technical functionality. The design incorporates a refined nose pad that is both secure and supremely comfortable. This inclusion also improves ventilation, which meant I experienced very little fogging (only when standing still after hard cardio). Built-in side visors further add to the aesthetic while also reducing peripheral glare. 

If I could make two small changes to the Dolomite, it would be increasing the size of the side visors, and extending the optics inwards above the nose pad, because I found that in harsh sunlight, these areas still let in some glare. The Dolomite frame does not float (although a few sources state the Leggero frame does), which means you’ll need to add some buoyancy to the cord if you spend a lot of time in or on the water (the neoprene storage case does float). Lastly, the frames, cords, and adjustment system all benefit from Ombraz’s lifetime warranty (lenses are not included).

The company incorporates Carl Zeiss polarized polyamide optics, which are impact-, scratch-, and smudge resistant, while providing 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. The Dolomite showcased the Polarized Brown tinted lens, but this is just one of three primary colors (grey and yellow are also available, while other tints, alongside prescription lenses, can be requested). Zeiss glass is legendary in the camera world, and the Dolomite’s polyamide optics do not disappoint. The finish is crystal clear, and the Polarized Brown casts a pleasing tint over the landscape while noticeably reducing eye fatigue. The company does run a replacement service should you wish to replace the optics or desire a prescription alternative, which is great. That said, the product would be even better if all three lens options were included, and they were easily interchangeable. In the past, I’ve owned outdoor shades with this option, and it’s nice having the ability to swap the tint depending on location, season, or activity. Fortunately, the frames, cords, and adjustment system all benefit from Ombraz’s lifetime warranty (lenses are not included).

The Ombraz Dolomites are quite simply the best sunglasses I’ve tested for outdoor activities and easily the most comfortable shades I’ve worn. Co-founders Brehm and Paloni are real characters (check out their crowdfunding campaign video below), and this personality and artistic flair is evident in these stylish yet functional sunglasses. There is some room for improvement, but nothing substantial enough to dissuade me from switching to Ombraz for my upcoming expeditions. 

$140 | ombraz.com

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